Friday 17 August 2018

Berlin Wall 100 mile race


Last year I got to half way before having to pull out (my first ultra DNF) due to a hip flexor injury. This meant I was more nervous than usual.  I have done the distance before but always as part of 24 hour races on flat track or tarmac loops so was worried that maybe I was just not capable of going long on different terrain.   I partly put my injury last year down to the terrain being a bit uneven and different to what I am used to.  It is not technical by any stretch of the imagination but as I am so used to roads and this has forests/wooded areas then I was just not prepared for it.  There also seemed to be a fair few inclines. I wanted to be better prepared this year so once I was recovered from Crawley 24 hour race I did my first hill session in a long time.  My achilles was not happy after this so I had to stop the hills and ended up just doing lots of steady flat miles rather than speed and hills which I had planned! Despite lots of heel drops and calf stretches my achilles never did get better before the race although it was manageable by running easy.

Pre race

We arrived in Berlin on Thursday.  Number pick up was Friday 12-7pm. We had 3 drop bags which we handed in at the start then they were taken to 59km,  90km and 128km.  I put some food and drinks in each and my night time gear (head torch and high viz) in the 2nd bag.  My portable charger went in the first one as if I needed to use my phone (unlikely) then the battery probably wouldn’t last until 90km unless I turned off the data - I didn’t want to turn off data as Phil was tracking me on find my friends so he could see where to meet me.

Race briefing which is compulsory was at 5pm followed by the pasta party.  We were warned that we must wait for the lights to turn green before crossing the road and that not doing this would lead to a time penalty and possible DQ.

Race start was 6am.  There were shuttle busses provided from hotel H4 in Alexanderplatz which is where the race HQ was based.  I got the 5.10 (last ) bus as I don’t like getting up early.  I had a carton of chocolate soya milk in my hotel room and took a banana with me to eat before them start but forgot about it.  At the stadium there was breakfast provided so had some coffee and a waffle.

After my DNF last year it was more important to me to finish this than to race/get a good time.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about time as I needed to have something to work to and Phil needed a bit of an idea of where to meet me.  In addition to a medal for finishing there was a belt buckle for sub 24 so ideally that’s what a wanted.  I felt that 22 hours should be realistic based on what I did at Crawley 24 (around 19.30 for 100 miles - that was on a track and I had crew so time bound to be faster but also my lack of speed hills meant I was not as fit for this).  So a rough plan / guide was to split the race into 25 mile sections then taking into account fade do something like 4.45/5.15/5.45/6.15 for each section.  I was running on feel/effort rather than trying to hit a pace but would then check in to see if I was on target.

Mile 0-25

We started on the track with about 3/4 lap.  I started too far back so was held up a bit and probably for about the first mile as it was a bit narrow/congested but it didn’t really matter; in fact it was probably a good thing as it stopped me setting out too fast.  There were lots of traffic lights for about the first 10 miles.  Mostly I had to stop but I got lucky with some of them.   Due to all the stops it was hard to know what pace I was running at because each mile split had at least one stop in it!  This was a good thing as it stopped me thinking about how I was doing and worrying I was running slowly - I remember last year (the race was the other way round so not as many stops) seeing the pace I was running and thinking how slow I was and that I must be having a bad day.  I am sure that then has an effect on me for the rest of the run.  So not knowing my actual run pace (current pace on the Garmin tends to be inaccurate) worked in my favour. 
Part of the wall

Check points were every 3-5 miles and well stocked with lots of different drinks - I had a lot of coke, sparking water, fizzy apple and fizzy grapefruit.  Food wise there was a good variety but mostly I ate banana and apple (in addition to some of the bars I was carrying).  As it was quite warm I decided to carry 2 bottles in my rucksack as 5 miles on tired legs on a warm day might be quite slow!  It also meant that I had to stop less often for bottle top ups.  I skipped the first couple of aid stations as they were busy but after that I stopped at each one and had usually 2 cups of drink and some fruit then used my own bottles between the aid stations to keep my fluids topped up.  I ran much of this section with Izzy so time passed quite quickly.  I was keeping the pace nice and steady in the hope that a steady start would delay the death march.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that when my Garmin hit 25 miles the time was 4.24.  Faster than the vague target but not so much faster to be worried.  My left hip flexor was a bit tight and as that was what had been the problem last year I was keeping my eye on it and trying to concentrate on running form. It was tight at Crawley too but then went away so I wasn’t too worried.

Miles 25-50

There were still traffic lights from time to time.   Now I was doing squats if I got stopped to try to stretch out my hip flexors.  Quads felt totally fine which I pleased about.  The first drop bag was at 59km.  It’s very easy to waste time at these places! I had a carton of chocolate soya milk in my bag,  my hands were so sweaty I couldn’t open the straw!
Front of my new raidlight bag
I noticed the small bag of coconut mushrooms had split so I quickly ate them as I don’t like waste and also the bag with my drinks powder in which I had been carrying from the start had split (these small zip lock bags from the pound store are going in the bin and I shall be back to my amazon ones). I had powder in one my bag pockets which was spilling out making a right mess so I needed to try to tidy up a bit.  Grabbed the other things  I needed then was off eating my crisps (from drop bag) which I had been looking forward to.  That was a mistake!  Having eaten the coconut mushrooms (which were meant for later) I shouldn’t have tried to cram the crisps in as well because I then had stitch for about the next hour!! I felt like my running was really slow and laboured due to feeling so full and having stitch but it couldn’t have been too bad as I got to 50miles (on the Garmin) in 9.20.  This meant that I was 40minutes ahead of the vague sub 22 plan.  I was not celebrating though as so far I had not had any toilet stops and I wasn’t sure how much I would slow down in the dark.

Miles 50-75

Back of my new bag
I had been drinking loads but not stopped for the toilet so thought I best go as athough I didn’t really need it I felt quite full.  With so many miles in my legs it’s much better to go at a portaloo than to have to squat somewhere in the bushes!  Around here I met a British guy I ran a bit with last year.  I had been having a few minutes walk at each aid station and sometimes another little walk until this point.  As I was well ahead I had a much longer walk as it was nice to have someone to chat to for a while and he was wanting a walk.  We started running eventually and ran together for a few miles but his run pace was a bit faster than I wanted to be doing so I let him go.  It was good to get past the place I dropped out at last year as that meant I had competed the whole course.

One thing I noticed is that the course had been pretty flat and easy underfoot.... not at all as I remembered it from last year.  This meant that it was going to get harder.  I think this worked better for me as there is less running in the second half so it’s a shame to waste the nice flat smooth stuff by walking; might as well have the harder stuff when you are walking anyway.

I noticed my phone battery was draining quite quickly so I plugged that in to charge about 10km before the 90km drop bag so I could then unplug and pack away properly in my bag when it was open anyway at the drop bag.  The 90km stop was outside so lucky it wasn’t raining,  There wasn’t a great deal of seating either - it’s easier to sort bags sitting down.  Had another carton of chocolate soya milk and as I hadn’t used much of my own food or
many drinks powders didn’t take any  but did pick up my night time gear.
I had arranged with Phil to meet me at around 8pm ie before it got dark.  He was going to Cycle the rest with me - cycle support is a big thing in this race.  You can have a bike with you from 58km.  However some people felt this rule didn’t apply to them - needless to say they were the only bikes which got in the way!  The first thing on Phils instructions when we met was to plug in my Garmin to charge.  I remembered that last time he did this he messed up and reset it.  I hadn’t given him training since then so to avoid argument and another mess up I decided to spent a few extra minutes sorting it out myself then at least it was done and as I was well past half way if I charged to 100% it would last until the end unless I had a disaster.

When it got to around 7.30pm I started looking out for Phil.  I wasn't sure if he would wait for me at the checkpoint or cycle back along the route to meet me - met me at the checkpoint.  I arrived at the 116km one just after 8pm..  Now I wouldn't need to stop long at the checkpoints as Phil would be dealing with my bottles.  Although in reality I still stopped at every one for a drink of something fizzy and a bit of fruit but tried not to linger.

Next time check was at 75 miles in 14.43 - approx. 5.30 for the last 25 miles so again about 15 mins up on my 22 hour plan.  At this point, as I had gained 15 mins in each section I thought that sub 21 might actually be possible.  However, I was not going to be pushing to get it.  A finish was the most important.

Miles 75 - 100

At 9pm we had to have on our high viz and head torch.   128km was the final drop bag so Phil got rid of all the things we no longer needed and picked up some more batteries but no food as I wasn't eating much of my own and still had enough left in my bag.

When I got to 80 miles I knew I was going to finish even if I had to walk to the end.  I was tired and running slowly.  I don't think I was even managing to run a mile without a little walk break! My hip flexor from earlier was fine.  Nothing hurt in an injured sense I was aching and tired and finding it hard to move at more than a shuffle!

Hire bike
There seemed to be a lot of forest/woods/slightly difficult stuff underfoot.   All of this would have been OK in daylight but with 80+ miles in my legs I was worried about tripping over something.  This meant I walked a lot more than I would otherwise have done.  The sub 21 was in the back of my mind but I didn't want it enough to risk running on anything that wasn't smooth - finishing was more important.  If I fell over I might not finish.  Plus, walking was easier than running and I was feeling a bit lazy! There were also quite a lot of inclines which I walked.  I don't often say this but there seemed to be more down than up....that cant be true as the start and finish is in the same place!  It was obvious when there was a down as Phil was free wheeling and it hurt my quads more!!

At each checkpoint there was a sign telling you how far you had come; how far to the next checkpoint and how far to the finish.   All of this was in km so throughout the race as I had been leaving the checkpoint and would convert the distance to the next CP into miles then work out what my garmin ought to say at the next CP.   As I got more tired this took longer!!! At around halfway I did the conversion for total distance to find that my garmin was more or less measuring accurately   - always handy to know if you are going to be doing 100 or 103 miles when you are nearing the end.  With 12.7km to go I did the conversion to find my garmin was now 0.5miles long.... better to find that out now than at the end I suppose!

Phil kept offering encouragement and handing me my bottles.  He also kept saying how he was really enjoying it and how next year he would meet me earlier so he could see more!!

I was finding it hard to run for very long at a time, think about 5 mins max and there seemed to be lots of cobbles which I didn't fancy running on so progress was slow.  If only the cobbles were a few hundred metres every half mile that would have worked out nicely but there must have been nearly a mile in one go which I had to walk.  I glanced at my watch from time to time and sub 21 was possible but tight.

With half a mile to go I got to some traffic lights and couldn't see where to go.  The signs had been really good.   There were white arrows on the ground and high viz blue arrows on trees/lamp posts which you could see really well with the headtorch.  I stood for a while shining my torch looking but couldn't see anything.  Phil went back to look for the last arrow and I walked back.  He found where we had gone wrong.  Not sure how it had happened as the arrow was quite clear! Not much distance was added because I was so slow but probably about 5 minutes.  Soon after taking the correct turn we were in the grounds where the stadium was then sooner than expected we arrived at the track.  Phil went ahead so he could park up his bike.   I did a very slow almost full lap of the track to finish in 21.03 with 100.7 miles on the garmin.

Finishing was a strange feeling.  Not like finishing other big races.  It was more relief that I managed it this time.  Finish time was irrelevant.   I think Phil was more annoyed than me about those 3 mins over 21 due to getting lost.  I was just grateful my body held up and got me to the end.

I was given my T shirt and a print out of all my times at the checkpoints.  I was 13th lady and 73rd overall (I think there were around 450 starters).   As I had finished under 24 hours I got a belt buckle but the medal and the buckle were presented to everyone the next day at the ceremony at 2pm.

There was food at the finish.  Not sure what it was but it looked like hot food.  I didn't fancy anything though.  Phil went to get the bag I had left at the start and drop bag 1 which had found its way back already.  The other 2 drop bags had to be picked up before the presentation the next day.

I then got the shuttle car back to the hotel.  Phil cycled back; he was only a couple of minutes behind.  Luckily we had been given a disabled room (we didn't request it but it was the only double left!) so there was a walk in shower and rails on the toilet!! Think I was showered and in bed within about an hour of finishing but didn't really sleep!
Medal, buckle, T shirt and spot (who ran with me)

What would I do differently?

Its always good to learn from races, similarly its quite satisfying when you feel that you wouldn't have done anything differently and did the best you could on that day.
The only thing I would change is those stupid pound land bags which split and I wouldn't have eaten the crisps straight after the coconut mushrooms which I only ate because the bag split!! Yes I could have gone faster.  I could have run more at the end but it would have hurt more and this race was about finishing reasonably happy and minimising suffering! There is always going to be a lot of suffering in a race this length though!

The race

I would def recommend this race if you are looking to do a straightforward 100 miles.  Yes there are hills and it is not all smooth tarmac but its a lot easier than a most 100 milers.  The race was really well organised.  26 aid stations in total all well stocked with plenty of variety even though I stuck to the  same things.  Unless you are really particular about what you eat you wont need to carry too much.  Next year it will be the opposite way round which means fewer traffic lights early on and lots when you need the rest! It also means in the dark it will be a bit easier as I think the surface was better in the first half.

Sunday 15 April 2018

Crawley 24 track hour race

My last 24 hour race was Bislett 2014.  During and afterwards I said that’s it for 24 hour races as I had had one too many bad ones.  I spent a lot of 2016 either injured or recovering from injury; during my recovery I decided that I wanted to give 24 hours another go.  Training had not gone as hoped due to hamstring tendonopathy which I picked up around June last year.  The injury was not bad enough to stop me running but severely restricted speedwork so most of my miles were done at a steady pace with the odd faster run thrown in but no interval sessions or hills.  I hoped that this would not affect me too much for a 24 hour race but it did mean i didn’t feel as fit as I would have liked.

A couple of months before 24 hour races I like to do a 100km/12 hour.  However, given that this was early season there was not much to choose from unless I went for off road and hilly which I hate.  My best option was was 75km Canalathon 2 weeks before; probably a bit close but if I didn’t do something pretty long I wouldn’t feel prepared and half the battle with these things is in the head.   I didn’t have a great day at the Canalathon.  Things just didn’t feel that good from the off.  Maybe the terrain (it was very muddy early on) or having to carry stuff; neither of which I am used to.  So pre  Crawley I was having a bit of a confidence crisis but tried to remind myself of some good 6 ish hour events I had in

Target setting was very difficult as I knew I was not in very good shape compared to my best (132miles in Basel 2013) so it’s kind of hard to be happy with anything less.  I had a good look at my training log from 2013 and compared it to today.  My MP is currently about a minute per mile slower but my steady training run pace more like 35-45s slower.  I figured that 120 miles would therefore be a realistic goal if all went well.  However, i didn’t want to get too obsessed with
goals as I give up mentally and then extend the walk breaks if I realise I’m not going to hit my goal.  I had roughly worked out something like 35/32/29/26 miles split into 6 hour blocks giving 2 miles spare for toilet stops.  However in reality I know it never works like that, this was more a guideline and if I fell below that was ok as long as I didn’t do less than 110 miles - that was my absolute
minimum (unless I had an injury or other major issue).

The plan was to walk a lap and eat every hour for quite a while and in addition to have something small on the half hour after a few hours.  I would introduce walks on the half hour when I felt I needed them.   I have made a few changes to my nutrition since my last 24 hour race - I have more liquid calories and more gels as they are so much easier than getting solid food down.

The first 4 hours passed quickly and comfortably.  As usual I set off a bit fast but it felt comfortable and I struggle to slow myself down to run at what feels uncomfortably slow.  Up to about 4 hours all was good but I felt I was slowing a bit so decided it was time to introduce a half hour half a lap walk break.  I know in 24 hour races that come the last 6 hours or so there is a lot of walking so a bit more earlier on might delay the time it takes to get to the death march!

After 6 hours I had covered 36.5 miles so a bit ahead of my fairly arbitrary plan but not too much to be of concern and I hadn’t had any toilet stops by this stage.  Quads were beginning to feel a bit tired but not too bad.  The next block of 6 hours is where I get a better idea of where I am at because i can work out my ‘fade’.  Anyone can run a decent 6 hours but can they run another 6 hours after that.  In my previous 24 hour races I seem to have a big drop off in the 2nd 6 hours.  I’m not sure if it would be better if I started slower.   Possibly not because I have done longer races in the past as training runs where I have started slower and still faded quite a lot.

During this next block I started struggling with solids - a bit earlier than usual - so started on the gels,
chocolate soya milk and coke.   My half lap walk breaks on the half hour had extended to a lap.  By 12 hours I had completed 67.3 miles so that was 30.8 miles in the 2nd 6 hours.  At this point I knew I was not going to hit 120 miles because although my 12 hour mileage was on target the fade rate was too big.  I thought / hoped that 115 miles would be possible though.

Phil went back to the hotel soon after midnight but left out plenty of bottles and food so I wouldn’t need to waste much time sorting myself out.  My walk breaks had extended to 2 laps then 3 laps at which point I realised I was walking far too much so instead of having two walks on the half hour I

just had the one long one then ran for just over half an hour.  Once the goals are out the window it’s hard to stay motivated and all too easy to walk a bit too much.  By now I was really struggling with solid food.  It took me 2 laps to eat a packet of crisps! The only solid I could get down easily was marzipan.

18 hours - 93.9 miles so the 3rd 6 hours was 26.6 - the fade was not as bad as the 2nd 6 hours so that was promising and as long as no major meltdown 115 miles would be do able.

Phil came back soon after 6am and it started to get light which always feels good. I felt that when I was running I wasn’t running too badly but it must have been around 12mm, it didn’t feel that slow!  Phil went back to the hotel around 7.30 to shower, pack up and check out.  It was at 8am I had my biggest low.  The 12 hour race finished and seeing them all stop made me feel really jealous.  Phil wasn’t there either so I got emotional and had a bit of a cry for a few laps.  4 hours was still a long time to go and moving forward was such an effort.  I tried to think about it in terms of miles instead of time because I was going so slowly there was probably little over half marathon to go.

I haven’t yet mentioned my competitors and that is because I was going into this to do the best that I could in terms of distance and damage limitation.  Any position was a bonus so I had to keep out of my mind what others were doing.  I knew Sarah was starting slowly with a view to holding it as long as possible.  I thought she would pass me between 6-8 hours which she did.  This did not bother me at
all as I was running my own race, I was pleased that she was running well and went on to hit her target.   Each hour the leaderboard is updated so of course I looked at my position in the field and in the ladies but I wasn’t letting it change how I was running my race. I was quite pleased that the guy ahead of me was a mile or so up with a few hours to go as this meant I wasn’t tempted/didn't feel obliged to try to catch him up!

In the final hours my run / walk was a bit haphazard.  Run a bit walk a bit just moving forward, not pushing myself too hard.  I think that had 120miles been in the cards I would have made more effort but it wasn’t so I wasn’t going to break myself.  My foot had been hurting from about 19 hours and was getting worse.  Paracetamol didn’t touch it so I tried voltoral gel which was no good either.  I don’t think I was limping but it was very uncomfortable and made those last few hours hurt more than they needed to. Nothing else really hurt I was just tired, grumpy and ready to stop!  With a couple of hours to go I knew 115 miles was pretty much in the bag and as my run pace was not a great deal faster than walking there wasn’t much to be gained by running lots so I was able to justify lots of walking.

The last hour must have been one of the longest hours of my life.  With about 10miuntes to go your
are given a beanbag with your number on.  When the horn sounds you stop and place the beanbag where you finish.  I worked out that if I walked the last couple of laps I would finish just by some chairs.  I think this must be the only 24 hour Race where I haven’t made an effort to run at the end to try to eeek out a few extra metres! On finishing I was so pleased to have a sit down - thanks for the chair Lindley!

Final distance was 117 miles so just over 23 miles for the last 6 hours i.e. very slow.  I was 4th overall and 2nd lady.  I was happy ish but a little disappointed not to hit 120 miles.  At 12 hours when I had been sure it wasn’t possible I walked a lot more.  If I had realised my fade wasn’t going to be so bad in the 3rd and 4th quarter then could I have hit 120 miles by walking a bit less? I’m not sure.  The walk breaks help.  If I had walked less maybe my run pace would have been slower? It’s hard to know but I do know I walked more than I needed to because I wasn’t prepared to push myself to the limits if I wasn’t going to hit my goal.

Post race I went for a shower and saw the extent of the foot damage.  Went to the Dr Monday as I had cellulitis so am now on antibiotics.  A week later it has more or less gone down.  The chip had grazed my skin so that must be where the infection got in.  The rest of my legs felt good really quickly, much more quickly than usual.  If it wasn’t for my foot I could have run on Tuesday - I wouldn’t have done as I want to recover properly but I felt good enough to run.

A few bits of info:
Kit - wore the same clothes throughout, it was warm enough not to need a jacket although it did rain for quite a while -  I just got wet and dried out!
Shoes  - skechers gorun ride 6 - got one blister which I didn't notice until after
Food - powerbars; 9bars; marzipan; about 8 gels; crisps
Drink - loads of coke and chocolate/strawberry soya milk; high5 electrolyte; OTE sports drink; AminoGo sports drink
Toilet stops - I think about 6

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Brugg 12 hour race

After my DNF at around 50 mile at Berlin 100 due to a hip flexor issue which came out of nowhere I needed another race.  I felt that the safest option was a timed event as technically you can’t DNF and if you stop early you don’t have to get rescued/find your way back on public transport feeling miserable.

Since Berlin the hip has been fine but I still have a bit of hamstring tendonopathy which has been going on since July .  I am able to run steadily but not do anything fast so although I have been able to get in reasonably decent miles I have not been able to do any speed/tempo/hill work as these all aggregate the hamstring.

Running had been up and down.  Some days I felt good but others sluggish which I think was from continually plodding.  The hamstring has been improving but still not enough to be happy with anything fast.  I entered the race feeling confident I could go the distance provided the hip flexor didn’t have a tantrum again.  I was less worried about the hamstring as that is more or less OK when running at ultra pace.

The event is a 24/12/6 hour.  The 24 hour started at noon; the 12 hour at midnight. I arrived around 6pm; had a look around to identify the toilets, check out the food, make up my drinks and then try (unsuccesfully) to sleep.

A midnight start is difficult as I am normally in bed by then.  When I got up at 11pm I really didn’t fancy starting a run, I just wanted to stay ‘in bed’.  About half an hour before I started drinking a caffeine drink which must have worked as by the time we started I wasn’t raring to go!  I didn’t have especially big ideas in terms of distance.  In April I had done 117km on the track.  I knew I wasn’t in such good shape due to lack of speed and I didn’t have anyone crewing which helps save a lot of time faffing with food and drink as well as keeping you on track.  I thought that 105-110km was fairly realistic but I was more interested in having a solid run and being reasonably strong at the end as well as coming through it with no injuries.

tables provided to put your own food/drinks
As always the first few laps were a bit too fast but I soon settled into a more suitable pace where I wasn’t dawdling but was hopefully not working too hard either. Each lap was 938.2m which made calculations interesting so I had a simple plan of laps per hour which had a bit of a fade.  From experience I know that Garmin’s measure quite a bit long on short laps/tracks so I couldn’t rely on it for distance.  The set up I went for was a small lap counter on my finger so I could count my own laps and Garmin so I could keep an eye on my mile splits and rough distance.   The race was chip timed.  Just after you went over the chip mat the results were projected onto the side of a white gazebo.  The last 10 people to go over the mat were displayed.  You could see last lap time; distance; number of laps and position ( which I think was age group position).

I hadn’t really decided on a run walk strategy other than there would be one!  I was feeling good and running well from the off so decided to do approx 1hour run then a few minutes walk.  11 laps took around an hour, the food was the other side so I did 11.5 laps before my first walk and bottle of OTE. For this race I was experimenting by taking on more calories from fluids as I have struggled during night runs with solid food.

lap counter
In terms of the race, I thought I was 3rd lady.  A lady had passed me a few laps in and another who had been running on my shoulder got ahead when I had my walk.  A few laps after I started running again i caught up with the lady who had been on my shoulder,  she looked to have slowed down a lot.  I passed her then she came with me staying on my shoulder.  Each time we were coming up to the chip mat she would go past me so she was ahead going over the mat then she let me get ahead and would run right behind me again.   I was getting fed up with these shenanigans; I had tried to talk to her but there were language barriers! I decided to play a game to see I feel she really was trying to get over that mat first so I picked the pace up quite significantly just before the mat - she came with me so I knew she was on a mission to get over that mat first.

11 laps later I have another walk and a powerbar.  Stalker lady slows down until I catch her up then she starts her games again.  This continued until just after 3 hours when she slowed down significantly and I started lapping her regularly.   I was managing to hold a fairly consistent pace a little ahead of schedule but not too far ahead that I should be worrying! I had decided that I would do 11 laps run for 4 hours then drop to 10 laps for the next 4 then 8 laps.   For each walk break I was grabbing a bottle of drink and sometimes food.  On the half hour I was grabbing a cup of coke and walking for about 10seconds to drink it.

At 4 hours I was feeling good still and holding the pace reasonably well.  I stopped to put some ‘novisport’ on my quads.  The grease and the rubbing made the lap counter come off my finger.  I had already been stopped longer than I would have liked as I had a gel which I couldn’t get open and had to use wet wipes to clean my hands so didn’t want to mess around getting it back on again ( there wasn’t also not too much need as the screen was giving me the lap info.  I needed the toilet but it wasn’t despirate so decided to hold on - managed to hold until my next walk - ask I was still feeling good I persuaded myself to stick to 11 laps run few minutes walk until 6 hours! Pace was now slowing as a little but was still nothing drastic.

After around 6 hours I was told I was 1st lady and 1st overall.  This was a big boost but also made me realise I couldn’t relax if I wanted to keep this position.  The lady who was ahead must have been in the relay.  I was feeling suspiciously good for 6 hours compared to some recent runs but as I was slowing dropped to 10 laps before a walk.  On my next walk break I was eating a powerbar when all of a sudden I had to go! This happened at my last 12 hour race - no warning!
The lady in second place was running a consistent pace without walking. I was a lap ahead but when
I had my walk she would pass.  It would take about 5 laps for me to catch her then I wound gain a bit have a walk and she would pass again.  I looked at her splits after; I don’t think thinknshe even went to the Toilets!!

After around 7 hours it was finally getting lift.  Although the course was lit there was one bit with a bump which I nearly tripped on a few times.  I hadn’t been been able to see my watch on the walking bit in the dark; now it was light I could see it and see that I hadn’t been walking that long on previous walk breaks - I walked until the corner - so now I could see the watch I walked a bit longer to make it nearer 5 minutes.

Stopped again for some more ‘novisport’ for my quads which were now starting to feel a bit tired.  Once I got past the 50 mile mark I was really happy as I had no issues with my hip flexor or hamstring and had  got beyond the distance I managed in Berlin feeling significantly better.  I was still holding a pace of comfortably under 10mm and feeling not too bad considering the distance covered.

100km flag
I think it was the last couple of hours where things got noticeably harder.  The laps were no linger being projected as it wasn’t too light so I had no idea of the laps. I knew that at 100km we got a flag to carry so was willing that moment to come.  I got the flag at around 10.30.  The only issue was that I didn’t know where on the lap 100km was so assumed it was at the end of the lap as the worse case scenario.  I then planned to count laps (I should have picked up the lap counter ) but soon lost count.  I knew that if I stuck to around 10mm with a walk then I should get 110km.

Wendy had been keeping me up to date with my lead - I just had one lap so couldn’t afford to slack off.  I was ahead of 2nd by a lap and a bit then with an hour to go she went past me whilst I was running.  Previously she had only passed whilst I had been walking.  She had obviously started to pick up the pace for the final hour and throw everything at it.  I did not need this!! I was hoping to just plod it out for the last hour knowing that baring a calf cramp or similar I would hit 110km.
I realised that I could not afford to have my walk break which was due at about 11.10 so instead grabbed a drink and walked for about 20s.  She gained about 50m whist I walked so I Just tried to keep that’s gap the same not allowing it to grow but also not pushing the pace as I didn’t want her to go any faster.  I could have gone a bit faster if i really had to but my calf felt like it might go into spasm so I didn’t need want to do more than I needed.  Every couple of laps I would grab a cup an drink walk for a few seconds drinking.  She was doing the same but walking less so she was gaining a tiny bit each time.  I knew she was hurting though as she was just randomly throwing her cups rather than putting them in the bin like everyone else.

The end
With a about half an hour to go where she was probably about 100m ahead on the lap (but I was still one lap up) I was trying to work out what pace she would need to run a treadmill to catch me up if I stuck to around 10mm.  Unfortunately my brain couldn’t work it out as I was too tired but it kept me I occupied for a few minutes trying! With 15 minutes to go she was gaining a little but not much.  I thought that unless she pulled out a sprint then I was safe but I couldn’t relax.  I just kept myself eye on her to make sure she’s didn’t suddenly put her foot down! It was only with about 5 minutes to go that I felt I was safe! I knew I had done more than my target so felt no real need to throw absolutely everything at it for the last lap.  I should have done though as it would have been nice to make another compete lap! I finished about 10m short of another lap it didn’t really matter as I had surpassed what I had set out to do!

Final result 1st lady 1st overall 114.927km which I was over the moon with.  The race was really well organised,  I would def recommend it although if like me you only speak English don’t expect much conversation with other runners!

Shoes and socks
Skechers go run ride 6
Hilly twin skin - no blisters

Food and drink
OTE vanilla
Tailwind berry
High5 4:1 berry
Aminogo berry burst
Genesis pre workout (also took during)
Vanilla soya milk with added electrolyte
4x gels
2x 9bars
2x powerbar coconut
Lots of bits of banana

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Berlin 100 mile

In 2014 I did two 24 hour races; both went badly.  I said no more of these they took too much out of me both emotionally and physically and I couldn't deal with yet another failure.   I decided to stick to 12 hour/100km type distance max. 

I spent a lot of last year injured.  As I was starting to run again I felt that I was ready (mentally) to have another go at 24 hours I just needed to wait until I was ready physically.  In April I did a 12 hour track race and in May 100km London to Brighton so was reasonably well prepared.  I had decided to go for the Berlin 100 mile race rather than a 24 hour as I have never actually done a 100 mile race even though I have always done more than 100 miles in 24 hours.

The route follows the old Berlin wall.  It is described as being flat but for someone who is used to 24 hours on a track it wasn't flat!!  The hills are mostly fairly short, I remember thinking Phil might have found some of them hard on the bike! I ran them for the first few hours then walked as did those around  The route was a mixture of pavements; tarmac or gravel tracks away from the road; forest and a few bits I didn't like of cobblestones (one long section and one shorter downhill bit around 45 miles which I walked as it was quite steep and I was worried about falling over).  Although it had a lot of off road sections it was defiantly a road shoe run but a cushioned rather than light weight road shoe to give protection from the stones.   I think most people would go with something more cushioned anyway for 100 miles but I did notice a fast looking guy wearing skechers gorun  which are my racing shoe! I was in go run ride which were perfect for the event.

The course was really well marked with arrows on the ground; most of the time I could see the person infront so didn't really need to look for the arrows.  There were 27 aid stations between 5-8km apart so if you are not fussy about what you eat/drink you don't need to carry much at all.   There are 3 drop bags which you can collect after the race so you can put just in case things in these and if you don't take them you still get them back.

We were staying at the H2 hotel which was next door to the H4 (race HQ).  Number pick up was Friday afternoon then an English race briefing at 5pm followed by a pasta party which had a good selection of pastas and salads (included in race entry).  The prize giving was at 2pm Sunday. You have to go to this to get your medal but get your T shirt at the finish. 

The race started at 6am.  A shuttle bus was provided from the hotel to the start which took about 10 minutes. There was breakfast at the start if you wanted it (also included) and coffee.  The start was at a stadium with plenty of space to wait indoors and the toilet queue was not too long! 

At registration we had been supplied with 4 bags.  3 were the drop bags and one the finish bag which was just left in the changing room.  I noted a lot of stairs up to the changing room!! 

With about 350 solo runners (relays started at 7am) the start was a bit congested as too many slower people started at the front and we had to do 3/4 lap around the track.  Fairly soon I was able to run at my own pace.  When I say my own pace I tend to run to effort rather than pace so zoned in to 'easy effort' and take whatever pace that happens to be.  This equated to a slower pace than I expected.  I was not sure why as I was well tapered so my legs were fresh.  I was quite tired from lack of sleep for a few nights and unnecessary other stresses so maybe that was why.

The early miles ticked by quickly.  At 10km we were given a rose to place at a memorial (about 20m later) of someone who was shot crossing the wall (its a different person every year).  My plan was to walk for a few minutes after each check point and to walk the hills.  I somehow managed to miss the first check point - it was just water so probably smaller - so had my first walk at the second one just after 8 miles.  I ran to here with Jon but lost him when I stopped for a walk.  Found him again after he stopped for the toilet but soon after he was way ahead!

The checkpoints varied slightly but all seemed to have apples and bananas (chopped up) little cup cakes (really yummy bite size choc ones), waffles, gels, coke and water.  There were other things but these are the things I took.  AT each check point I had a cup of water or coke then grabbed some food to eat whilst walking.  A few times I had to fill my bottle; we were told at the briefing we were not allowed to fill our own but had to hand them over to be filled- this was done very quickly so by the time I had handed it over drunk a cup of coke, grabbed some food it was handed back to me - they even put my high5/OTE powder in the bottle when I handed that over so that was one less thing for me to fiddle about with.

There were a fair few road crossings.  We were told in the briefing that crossing when the red man was showing could result in a DQ so there was a bit of stopping and waiting.  This made it difficult to predict times/pace but I could tell from my garmin I was having a slow day when I looked at my real time pace.

The first drop bag was at 33km.  They seemed to have them all laid out in number order and only took a few seconds to get my bag.  I decided to just take everything from my drop bag for quickness even though I didn't need it then I could throw the bag away.  I had a few bars; drinks sachets and gels but up to this point hadn't used any of my own food.  I knew I couldn't throw away my second drop bag as it had spare socks and T shirt in so thought I would faff a bit longer at that one with what I needed and didn't need.  Probably spent about 3 minutes at that drop bag so not too bad I suppose.

I found myself running bits with other people and bits on my own as different people had different run walk strategies so there was a lot of passing and being passed by the same people.  This event is big on bike support.  No bikes are allowed until check point 3 then they are allowed until the end.  Mostly they were OK, there was only one who got in my way a bit as she wanted to be right by her runner at all times so would push past me unnecessarily.  Phil was going to be meeting me on the bike at around 8.30pm just before it got dark and then stay with me until the end.

A bit earlier than I would have liked /expected based on training runs my pace had slowed to 10-10.30mm.  No idea why; I was feeling a bit sluggish and it was feeling harder than it should have done.  My quads started to ache a bit somewhere mid 30s I think.  This was far too soon.  They had been totally fine on a 40 mile training run at a faster pace a month before.

I was quite pleased to get to the 70km drop bag just because it gave me an excuse for a mini break!  I had a sit down to sort out my drop bag.  It had been raining most of the morning so I was going to change my T shirt and socks but about an hour before this drop bag it stopped so my T shirt was just a bit damp rather than wet.  I sorted out the food I wanted to take which wasn't much as I had still mostly been eating the food which was provided.  As my legs were feeling sore I put some more aloe heat gel on them as that takes the edge off a bit then off I went after probably 4-5mins.

I felt fine leaving the checkpoint.  I bit more tired than I would like to have been at 70km into a 160km race but often things don't get worse.  I remember thinking that if I felt like this at 120km when I met Phil I would be very happy!  Although my pace had slowed early on it seemed to have stuck at around the mid 10mm mark now so if it were to stay like that I could still have a decent race despite the initial early slow down.   Here I should probably say that I do not aim for even pace in ultras of this length but rather keep the effort level about the same so the pace gradually slows down.

At each aid station there was a notice up telling you the distance; distance to go and distance to next check point.  This was all in km and my garmin was in miles so as I left each check point I would work out the distance to the next one in miles then work out what that would be on my garmin.  This kept me entertained for a couple of minutes and helped preserve the battery on my shuffle as I turned that off when I was doing sums!!

Coming into the next check point at 47.x miles my quads were a bit hurty.  Both my hip flexors were aching a bit but not too bad.  I stopped to drink some coke and before I finished the coke I got pain like I have never had before in my hip flexor /upper thigh area.  I sat down and took some Ibuprofen which I wouldn't normally take in a race but it was an emergency.  Earlier in the year I had a bit of trouble in that area when I started doing faster long runs or racing marathons.  It was always fine the next day but at the time would hurt.  This was a similar area but the pain was far worse.

After a couple of minutes I thought I might as well set off to the next check point walking to give the Ibuprofen chance to work.  Even walking was really painful but I hoped the Ibu would soon kick in and all would be well again.   After about 5-10 minutes the reality of what was happening started to dawn on me.  Given how bad the pain was; even if Ibuprofen did work to take away the pain I would need to keep taking it as I still had another 50 miles to go.  And given that it was bad pain something was not happy so running 50 miles on it was not going to be a very good idea. As I have had this before I know its one of those things which ease off as you run.    At this point I should have turned around and gone back to the aid station as the next one was 6km away.  However I wasn't quite ready to admit that my race was over.

That 6km walk was horrible.  Not only was I in pain but my race was over and lots of people were passing me.  Some stopped to walk to ask if I was OK and a lovely English chap on a bike with his wife running cycled with me for a while and offered me money for a taxi - I hope that she finished as last year she didn't make it.

Eventually I got to the aid station and was told how to get back to the hotel (bus then train).  As the race is one big loop around berlin you are never too far from the city.  It took about an hour to get back.

This was a really well organised race and everyone (runners and volunteers) were so friendly and supportive.   I will be back and would defiantly recommend it to anyone thinking of doing a 100 miler. 

I have never had a DNF in an ultra before.  My only DNF was a marathon where I dropped down to half so not sure if you count that.  Had this been another 12 hour race I would have been upset of course.  However, it has taken me almost 3 years to feel ready to do another mega distance race so the disappointment is so much greater as well as the feelings of failure.

The race was on Saturday.  It is now Wednesday.  As I only got to half way my legs have recovered pretty well.  On the few short runs I have done my hip flexor has been 100% fine.  I am not sure what went on but think it might be because I was running so much slower than normal so my running form was probably a bit off.  Although I have had no bother with the hip flexor when running for several months (including 100km event) it was probably 95% fixed before the race as it did feel a bit uncomfortable in certain positions.  So I am guessing as it was not quite fixed it didn't take too much upsetting for it to cause pain.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Crawley 12 hour race

This was my first big ultra following a lot of 2016 injured or slowly returning from injury.   I did a 6 hour race early February as my longest run; a back to back track marathon and a few other marathons in training (as well as a few solo long runs).  My most recent marathon showed I was starting to get my speed back as it was just 14 minutes slower than my PB and I wasn't tapered.

I knew I was not going to be near my best but I was in better shape than I thought I would be when I entered so had my eye on the V40 12 hour track record of 114.4km - I actually did 119.8km as a 12 hour split at a track 24 hour but the times were not submitted so it's a fairly unoffical record but would be nice to have my name on the DUV website! 
A selection of my race snacks

Spenser kindly offered to crew for me - he has seen me in a state crying during a 24 hour race before so at least he knew what he was letting himself in for.   This was a totally different experience to having my husband there.  Normally Phil will sit in his chair playing games on his phone getting up when I bark orders at him for food/drink and popping off to McDonalds for meals!  Spenser was so much more involved (he is an ultra runner so knows the score) he was timing my laps constantly; giving me feed back on if I needed to speed up or slow down; giving me drinks/ food when I didn't ask for them because he knew I needed them; offering encouragement when I felt like s*** and when I felt good and persuading me to run a bit harder when I had nothing left to give.  Having someone like that certainly helps get the best out of yourself and I am so grateful to him for giving up his bed for the night as the race started at 8pm.

When we started the 24 hour runners had already be going for 8 hours; some of them were still running strongly; I hoped I would be that strong in 8 hours time.

My usual plan for a 12/24 hour is 1 hour run 1 lap walk.  Spenser suggested 5km run 1 lap walk as I get breaks more often and more opportunities to recover.  I was not totally on board with this as I felt that there would be too much walking so I wouldn't cover enough distance.  More walking / rest means the inevitable fade is delayed and legs stay fresher for longer but is the extra time spent walking greater than the time saved from fading later than usual??? So the plan was to start with 5km run 1 lap walk but possibly revise it.

The first 5km went really quickly, I didn't need my walk but the idea is that you walk before you need it then it takes longer before you get to that stage where all you want to do is walk!  As I had tapered for this race my first few laps were a bit fast as my legs were raring to go; it took a mile or so to get into a sensible pace.

Next 5km and time for a powerbar, that 5km went v quickly too.  Pretty much on target so all good.  From now on I would have something small like a Jaffa cake on my half half hour (ish) walk and something a bit more (powerbar or 9bar) on the hour.  This went out the window after about 5 hours when I started feeling a bit full so couldn't stomach food for a while; that's when the chocolate soya milk is cracked open; this always goes down well.

having a walk - photo Jon Lavis
The walk breaks continued to come round quickly.  I found that because I was only having to run for 
5km I was running a bit faster than if I was running for an hour before a break.  After around 4.5 
hours I was starting to have to work a bit harder to maintain pace but I knew at 6 hours I could slow down as I had one fewer laps per hour to cover so I pushed on to the 6 hour mark knowing I had could back off the pace a bit after that.  As I was only running 5km at a time I wasn't having to work hard for too long.This may have been a mistake.  Maybe I should not have worked so hard in that 6th hour as I was ahead of schedule so could have backed off a bit to save energy.

It was a relief to beable to ease off a little at the half way mark; it was also a good feeling to be past halfway and very soon only a marathon to go.  At that point I was feeling quite good and the thought of another a marathon to go felt very doable.  The thing is; a marathon towards the end of an ultra is a totally different matter to a stand alone marathon and takes significantly longer!  

Up until 9 hours I was hitting my target number of laps (or slightly more) but then the slippery slope began.  My pace was dropping off which was allowed but I wasn't sure if I was loosing too much.  It is so easy to loose all the gain you have made in the first 3/4 of the race.

I had been putting it off for quite some time but had to go to the proper toilet.  It was occupied so I had to go to the other changing room to find another.  The previous person had made a mess which needed clearing up before I could sit down so I ended up loosing 5 mins on that's stop.  Once I got going again there was a big drop off of about 5s per lap.  I am not sure if the stop was to blame or if it was just that point in the race so would have happened anyway.  Laps for the 9th hour were down due to the stop but I had 5 spare laps in the plan for stops so it was OK to loose a couple for that toilet stop.

With just under 3 hours to go this is where it pays to have someone telling you what to do ....try to keep up with the guy in the white shirt; lets have a big effort for the next 5km; handing you food/ drink because you forget you need something etc,  as well as that having a someone find out how many laps you have done and working out what you need to do was a massive help as the brain struggles this late on! 

5am - photo Jon Lavis
After 9.30 my Garmin 735xt beeped low battery so I plugged it in to my portable charger on the next walk break and unplugged on the following one.  I had tested it at home where 30 mins gave quite a lot of charge so I assumed it would be enough. The flaw with this was that I wasn't using it just left it sat in the kitchen when I was testing.  Needless to say at 10.40 my Garmin died totally.  By this stage my laps (I was pressing lap on the Garmin every lap to see my lap time) were so slow it was depressing so I didn't bother charging it up again.  As the race was chip timed I knew I could get my splits later.  

Each hour the leaderboard was updated with distance in miles.  Looking at my 10 hour distance I didn't think I was going to get my target as I had slowed so much.  With around 90 minutes to go Spenser told me how many laps I needed to do.  I was trying to do the calculations but couldn't figure to out; it sounded like too many though given how slow I was going.

Falling asleep - photo Jon Lavis
My quads were killing which was part of the reason why I was so slow so gave in and took some ibuprofen in the hope that it would ease the pain.  About 20 mins later my laps got a bit faster for a short time so that must have been the Pepsi and drugs kicking in! In addition as the end was in sight I was able to give a bit more but soon I had nothing left.

The countdown started from I think 16 laps to go with around an hour or so to do them in. I used the official clock to time my laps and then do a quick calculation to find that it was quite possible provided I didn't get cramp or have to go to the toilet or something! 

When I had my last walk there was about 5 laps to go to the target so I knew I had got it.  Goal achieved with 20 minutes spare.  Those last 20 minutes were slow and painful.  I should have been happy but I was in too much pain and was trying to keep movingly forward faster than others who were walking. 

With about 5 minutes to go I was trying to figure out where I would finish.  I wanted to finish near the tent so I wouldn't have to walk too far once I had finished.  It looked like I probably would just pass it so there was no incentive to 'sprint' for the last few minutes as the further I went the further I would have to walk back to the tent.

When the whilst blew I was about 50m away so not too bad.  I dropped my beanbag so that the final fraction of a lap could be measured then hobbled to the tent for a nice sit down. 

Final distance was 117.4km.  
1st lady (approx. 20 miles ahead of 2nd)

Nearly finished - photo Wendy Edwards
4th overall

I was very happy with that as I felt I gave it my all.  I wasn't sure going in what I would manage as I hadn't been over 40 miles in around 18 months so I thought I might suffer badly after that- I did but it could have been a lot worse. 

1st 6 hours  156 laps
2nd 6 hours 137.75 but a couple of laps were lost to the toilet.
For such a long race that sort of positive split is fairly normal for me.  I think if I were to start slower I might have slightly more event splits but am not sure as after 8 hours running regardless of speed I'm going to be tired and slow down! 

Sunday 8 January 2017

Running Reborn

In March 2016 I got injured which is why there have been no running bogs for a while.  I started back running again in September just a couple of times a week for a few miles.  By November I was able to run on consecutive days; do a little bit of speed work and some medium long runs.  I have now done a couple of steady paced marathons but still feel there is a long way to go to get back my speed and endurance.

My sports doctor suggested that I get my running form analysed properly not just the Physio watching me run on the treadmill for a few minutes which he had done in the past.  There were a few options out there which involved video, fancy technology and treadmills.  I don't run very well on a treadmill so when I found Shane did similar but running outside that was the obvious choice especially as his website had testamonials from some top ultra runners.

The session began with a bit of chat about my running history and goals.  Shane is an ultra runner himself so I didn't get that look I usually get from Physio's / doctors when I talk about running for 24 hours;  he totally gets it!

We went to a nearby park for the session.  I ran a lap (approx 400m) warm up then another at a steady pace followed by a final lap at a hard pace.  The surface was a bit uneven for a tarmac runner and there were some wet leaves so there wasn't a great deal of difference between my easy and hard pace!  On my shins I had Vimove sensors and was videoed on each lap to analyse later. 

The  Vimove showed various interesting data like how hard each foot hits the ground, contact time of each foot, acceleration and cadence.  My Garmin shows some of this but doesn't show the difference between right and left.

I'm not totally symetrical but apparently not too bad.  My cadence at a steady pace was 177 and faster pace 192.  I knew that 180 was about right and know form my Garmin that I am usually a bit lower for slow runs and higher for fast runs.  I didn't realise it mattered but Shane explained why 180 is the key figure for ALL paced runs so I need to work on getting it lower for the faster runs.  In addition on long runs I need to try to keep the cadence the same.  Obviously this session was not long enough to test what's happens to cadence after 20 miles but apparently it gets lower and the stride stays the same.  What should be happening is cadence should stay at 180 but stride get shorter.  This should then help save the quads a bit.

The Vimove data could be used in conjunction with the video and observations Shane made about my running.  I'm not as bad as I thought I was but do have a few things to work on which should help improve my effciency.
1. Head position -  I look down at the ground when I am running, should be looking ahead.  I think I do think as I am scared of tripping on things.
2.  Arms -  they are in the right position and don't cross over he centre line but are not doing anything particularly useful
3. Left foot - has a slight heal strike, right foot is fine.

He explained why each of these things should change and why they would improve efficiently which I am not going to go into here but it was all explained clearly and made a lot of sense.

There are other things to work on as well which we did not go into this time - can't change everything at once, need to get the basics right.

 My final run was another lap trying to focus on the 3 things above.  I was videoed and got the left foot thing right, arms were better but head wasn't - I blame that on the surface being uneven so found it hard to keep my eyes off the trail just infront!

I have done a few runs since the session and a finding it easier to make running changes than making changes to my swimming.  I think the head position is going to be the hardest - each time I think about it I realise I am looking down! 

It was a great session and well worth the long drive. I would definitely recommend Shane if you are looking to improve running form/ efficiency and reduce chance of injury